Monday April 1st
Today was a jubilant drive from Nashville to St. Louis. We had an epic rehearsal all day on Sunday, and were feeling confident and ready to embark on the quest for the west. It’s such a crazy feeling when something that you have spent months planning and visualizing and preparing for in various ways finally arrives. It’s a good moment to let go and trust that everything will come together in some way, which may or may not be how you pictured it but which will probably be filled with great boons that you couldn’t have planned for. Everyone was in good spirits and excited about the adventures to come.
Our first show was at Plush, a venue in St. Louis with several different performance spaces. I didn’t actually get a look at the big theater, which was locked up for the night, but I’m told it’s a great space with excellent sound. We played in the upstairs lounge area, which was equipped with pool tables and a photo booth. The opening band, Mt. Thelonious, had a member who had previously lived in Fairfield, Iowa, my hometown, and his very sweet dad still resides in Fairfield and came to St. Louis for the show. Always nice to feel that home-town love, and we didn’t realize at this point in the tour that the Fairfield contingent would be popping up all over the place. Mt. T gave a delightful performance and so did Letter to Memphis, who played after us. It was a very enjoyable night of music all around and a good way to kick things off. I can’t say it was the most well-attended show in the history of St. Louis, but we didn’t care. It was a perfect warm-up for the tour and a good place to try out some of the new material we’d been working up.
Tuesday April 2nd
CITY MUSEUM! Today was the day we went to city museum and revisited our 12-year old selves. What a place. Seriously, if you’ve never been there, it lives up to all the hype. It’s basically an enormous jungle gym for all ages. You can crawl through tunnels (that you’re not always sure if your body will actually fit into), go down a 10-story slide, run in place in a human-sized hamster wheel, climb around in tree-house like structures, and many more activities. You can even eat BBQ and drink beer if you want. Lots of options. It was a thrilling couple of hours spent at the museum, and we all left with bruises and sore muscles and having laughed our buns off.
We headed to record Bar in Kansas City for the show. Caitlin Cannon & the Artillery kicked things off—a girl group from Colorado who did a killer Johnny Cash cover, amongst other things. There was a solid turn out, great sound and good pizza. We were followed up by a set from Ryan Triggs, who I made the unfortunate and embarrassing error of introducing as a lady, as in “stick around for Ryan Triggs. She’s awesome!” but is very clearly, as Ryan put it “a dude”. Woops. Sorry, Ryan! He has a soothing country voice and it was a lovely way to close the night.
Packing up and loading out and saying goodbyes took a while and we left the club at about 1am to drive a couple hours to Johnson City, Kansas, where the Cloud 9 sleep system of the Hampton Inn was to welcome us. Luckily, the boys hung in there and chatted away and Doc and I passed out on the back bench.
Wednesday, April 3rd
Even though we were exhausted from the late night the night before, we all agreed it was better to have killed a couple of the hours of the many miles to Boulder. This has been a tour of some of the most beautiful drives I have ever experienced. Johnson City, Kansas to Boulder, however, was not one of those drives. Well, okay, once you start getting close to Boulder it becomes gorgeous quickly, but there were many hours in there of flatness and nothingness—and very few lunch options, I might add. But we powered through and were very happy to get to Boulder with time to spare. Loading in to the Innisfree was pretty hilarious, considering we are a 5-piece band and their stage is clearly designed for one person and an acoustic guitar. Especially in contrast to the rock-club with lights and full sound system of the night before, we had to adapt on the fly to a very different room and vibe. It was a fun challenge though and we managed to set up Papi and Stophy facing one another on the stage and the rest of us in a line across the front. The sound system was simple, but did the trick and I think we did a fine job playing to the room. This was probably the best-attended show yet and, though the place is rather small, it felt great to be playing to a full room. Lots of friends came out, and we got to hang with Chris’s sister before the show. There was a good Fairfield crew at this show as well. We stayed with my dear friends Christi and Ben Stone, who I grew up with, and it was so nice to catch up with them, as well as to enjoy their beautiful home and super sweet doggy.
Thursday April 4th
DAY OFF! A perfect day to chill in Boulder. I think we all had moments of fantasizing about moving there. It’s just so pretty everywhere you look. I went for a jog around the neighborhood in the morning and came across some trails around the mountains which were surrounded by tons of the cutest little gopher-looking animals, which I later found out were prairie dogs. We took advantage of the luxury of a kitchen to use and made a yummy breakfast to eat out on the patio in the sunshine. In the afternoon, Doc and I made it to a much-needed yoga class at the Yoga Pod. Felt so good to move our van-weary bodies and Nicole, our teacher, led a deeply satisfying and inspiring practice. We all got to spend the evening with Jamie’s college buddy Orion and his incredible family. Orion and his wife Kristin have two of the cutest little girls I’ve ever met, and one of the highlights of this whole tour was witnessing these two little ladies do a rendition of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” that was heartbreakingly adorable. Doc and I were challenged to do a performance of our own, so we went with “I’m a Little Tea Pot” and then the boys led us all through a group sing-along of “Down By the Bay”. We also had some of the best guacamole ever and scrumptious tacos and margaritas. Bueno!
Friday, April 5th
We started this day off by taking our new buddy Oscar for a hike in the hills. It was an exquisite, sunny morning and it felt deeply rejuvenating to be moving around in nature. After a terrific meal with our friends Bella and Mona, we got on the road to Carbondale. This was one of the most breathtaking drives I’ve experienced. Almost the whole journey was winding through mountain roads and everywhere you look is ski slopes and pine trees and enormous mountains. When we got to Carbondale we had dinner at Phat Thai. We’ve all agreed that this was one of the best meals of the tour. Mmm, I wish I could go eat there again right now. If you find yourself in Carbondale, I highly recommend eating here and then catching a show at Steve’s Guitars. Steve is a wonderful host and has created a charming atmosphere at this venue. This show was one of my favorites of the whole tour. The audience was so warm and friendly and everything about this night felt fun and celebratory. We had a great hang with a bunch of people after the show, which included everybody getting involved in helping us figure out how to get the van key out of the locked van (yes, I take full responsibility for this one). A very nice gentleman who ran a restaurant around the corner ended up being the hero of the night and coming to our rescue with some miraculous tool that got the van open.
Saturday, April 6th
Elephant Revival show! This was another highlight of the tour. If you’re not familiar with this band, check them out. They are innovative and soulful musicians and truly sweet people. The show was at The State Room in Salt Lake City, a really great venue as well, with a nice big stage and great sound system and sound guy, standing/dancing room in front and rows of church-pew style seating in the back. And the 300 capacity room was sold out! An incredible audience at this show as well, and about two songs into our set, people were already dancing. They even danced to Alone Together, which I would imagine is challenging. You could tell people were there to have a good time, and I felt honored to be a part of it. Elephant Revival put on an incredible and joyful show and everyone was on such a high the entire evening.
Sunday, April 7th
The BIGGEST drive. So, originally I had planned to set up a show in Boise for this night, but nothing was coming together so it became a travel day. It ended up being perfect though, because instead of stopping in Boise we decided to go for it and bite off the entire 14 hour drive to our next destination, Cannon Beach, Oregon. The Oregon coast is an area of the country that I have heard people speak so highly of and had never been to before. I now fully understand what all the hype is about. It is SO BEAUTIFUL here. And what made it even more beautiful was the fact that, through beloved friends, we were able to have the sweetest gift of staying in a cozy beach house about a block from the ocean. The drive there was rather painful, a long time-warp where you can’t believe how many hours in that van are still ahead of you, but it was absolutely worth it to go to sleep that night and wake up in Cannon Beach. When we were about a half hour away we got to see a herd of 15 or so elk wandering through someone’s front yard. By that point it was very dark out and we were winding our way through fog and hills—it was a pretty mystical entry into our Cannon Beach stay.
Monday, April 8th
I awoke in our cozy bunk-house to Papi’s voice calling up the stairs “Sweeter! It’s breakfast time!” and saw that I had slept til 12:15. Whew! Much needed. Everybody had whipped up an absolutely delicious brunch and right out the window you could see waves crashing on the beach. It doesn’t get much better than this. We had two full days of rest and play time in Cannon Beach. It was only one week since we had left Nashville, but we had already covered an enormous amount of ground and it felt like a perfect time to take a long, deep breath and chill for a moment. That afternoon the boys and I took a trip into town to the grocery store, but when we parked next to Bill’s Tavern, we felt we didn’t have much of a choice but to sample the local brews first to prepare for our shopping. I tell ya, I don’t know what they do to their beer at this place, but they are sure potent! It was quite a funny grocery excursion after that. In the evening, Jamie made his signature dish, Penne a la Vodka, for all of us and after our feast we retired to the family room to watch Goonies, which was filmed right there in Cannon Beach.
Tuesday, April 9th
Happy Birthday Kristin! Our dear Doctor turned another year older today. We started the day off with a birthday brunch. We juiced fresh ginger and everybody did a ginger shot—woah, what a rush! And then we sat with our full, happy bellies and played our favorite dice game, boxcars. That afternoon, Doc got a birthday massage at one of the local spas and Papi and I hit the ping-pong table hard for a serious tournament. Actually, truth be told, he completely schooled me, but we laughed really hard and had a very silly, fun time. Scotty took my place against the reigning champion at that time and the two of them had quite an intense game. That night we paid one more visit to our new favorite drinking establishment, Bill’s Tavern, and then went out to a great dinner at a restaurant called Driftwood. Kristin and I had a nighttime stroll on the beach that night and we all went to bed early, tired and happy.
Wednesday, April 10th
Back to the “grind”. Haha, hardly. After two glorious days of utter vacationing at its best, it was time to head on down the road to our next show. We had a leisurely morning, said goodbye to the beach, and had a beautiful and short drive to Portland. We got there in time to get all settled in and have a home-cooked dinner with our dear friend Chrissy, who took such good care of us. Well-fed and well-rested, we got to Laurelthirst Pub, so psyched to be reunited with Gwyneth & Monko. Last fall we got to meet this duo of incredible musicians and human beings when they came and stayed with us in Nashville for a short stint in the midst of a big tour. I remember when they left thinking what a shame it was that we didn’t live in the same place cause I could really see us being good friends and hanging out a lot. Clearly, you don’t have to live in the same place to be good friends, and I was so excited that we got to share four shows with G&M on this tour. When I was booking the tour, Gwyneth was like my booking guru who would remind me that everything would come together somehow and not to worry. Booking a tour can be lonely business and having their help with setting up this leg of the tour meant a huge amount to me. We had a bunch of friends come out to this show and were very grateful to be able to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones.
Thursday, April 11th
This was one of those great days where our next show was only a few hours away so we could have a chill morning and get to enjoy where we were before moving to the next destination. I haven’t spent a ton of time in Portland, but from what I hear it is one of the better cities for delicious food. The place we were staying was a couple blocks away from a haven of food trucks, so we decided to partake of this cities culinary opportunities by delving into this multi-cultural food truck experience. Before leaving Portland, we got to stop by our friend Tucker’s recording studio to say hi and check out his place--an absolutely gorgeous studio, in the words of Papi, “super vibey”. Beautiful reclaimed wood that had been hand picked, and all sorts of thoughtful touches that make it the sort of space that is instantly inspiring. After the visit, we got on the highway to Cottage Grove, a tiny town just outside of Eugene, Oregon. The Axe & the Fiddle is a very cool venue, with excellent food (I know, this blog is secretly mainly about what food we ate) and a fun, laid back atmosphere. When we got there, they had been having some sort of “family day” and there were tons of little kids running around in costumes. Not a ton of people came to the show that night, but it was one of those shows that felt like we were having a party and it didn’t really matter who showed up cause we were going to have a great time no matter what. We switched up some things in the set list and musically it felt satisfying and spontaneous. The staff of the Axe & Fiddle were incredibly sweet to us and we got to meet some local people after the show, who were also very friendly. One of my good friends from Fairfield came who I hadn’t seen in years (yes, more Fairfielders—we’re everywhere!) and it was a delight to catch up with her after the show.
Friday, April 12th
Luckily, another relatively short drive today. The drive from Eugene to Ashland was a particularly pretty one with lots of scenic views through the mountains. I have only been to Ashland once before, and it’s a place I would really love to spend more time. We didn’t have a show scheduled this night, so we decided to head to Lythia Park, in the center of town, and busk. My dad previously lived in Ashland and played in the park regularly, to great success. He was even able to tell us exactly which bench would be the best so we could get maximum foot traffic passing by. This park is just idyllic. The lythia spring runs through the park and there’s a beautiful little pond and happy people strolling around. It felt very good to be there. We pulled our instruments out of the van and set up for an impromptu acoustic set. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an upright bass along with us for the tour, but Chris, being the trooper that he is, adapted to the situation and played mandolin instead. We really had never even practiced these songs as acoustic songs, so it was fun and surprising to see how they felt in this setting. Scott has a beautiful little Martin guitar that he played and Papi played brushes on his thigh. Lots of passers by stopped to listen. We had one angelic little girl who was extra sweet to us and kept putting tips from her mom, and then tips in the form of dandelions and other flowers, into our case. That night we stayed with a friend of my dad’s who was so kind to open her home up to us, a group of musicians she had never even met before, and we ended up hanging out and chatting and having a great time til late in the night.
Saturday, April 13th
San Francisco! Our two days in San Fran were definitely a highlight of the tour. First of all, we left Ashland after being fed a delicious home-cooked breakfast by our hostess, and had another one of the prettiest drives I’ve ever seen. There were a few places where you would be on winding mountain roads and then come around a curve and all of a sudden see glistening water (not the ocean, but I forget what bodies of water they were—bays? Lakes?) at the foot of a mountain and sunlight bouncing all over the place. The water even had this glowing green color to it, like it was in a Disney movie or something. Just breathtaking. The next 48 hours were pretty much non-stop bliss for me. We pulled into Brandon and Olivia’s and were welcomed by home-made enchiladas that Olivia had concocted, who is literally a goddess of culinary arts. In addition to the whole Keely gang being there to hang with, we also met up with my very own papa, Daniel Sperry. I really hadn’t gotten to be with my Dad in far too long, and I couldn’t imagine a better set of circumstances for us to be reunited in. My dad has spent time in Nashville and was already buddies with Chris and Kristin, but was getting to meet Scott and Jamie for the first time, which was very exciting to me. We sat out on the patio of Brandon and Olivia’s beautiful condo, eating yummy food and drinking yummy beer, before it was time to get in show-mode and set up. The show was downstairs at the yoga studio space that Olivia and Brandon have, which they were very generous to invite us into. It is a perfect space for a show like this—welcoming, cozy, classy and beautiful but very comfortable. People sat mostly on floor pillows and it created a warm, interactive atmosphere for the show. More surprise Fairfield friends showed up to this show too, which added to the sweet family-vibe. Gwyneth & Monko played an absolutely beautiful set and I would have been content to just sit there and watch them play another set when it was time for us to go on. My dad started our set off with a poem and a cello piece, and then he sat in with us on four songs in the set. It felt so right and so satisfying for him to be playing with us—I was thrilled. It was also really fun to have Megan and Gwyneth add harmonies on a couple tunes. After our set, everybody stuck around and hung out for a while, and then we got the pleasure of Megan and her band hopping up and doing a “rehearsal” for the gig the following night. They sounded awesome—I am a big fan of Megan’s music and her band, which included her dad and brother, was stellar. This rehearsal ended up transpiring into a jam, which lasted well into the night and ended with a “dad jam”, just Megan’s dad and my dad were the last men jamming. Incredibly heart-warming, as you can imagine.
Sunday, April 14th
Today we got to fully enjoy the city of San Fran. After a killer brunch, made with love once again by the incomparable Olivia, Peter and Megan took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood, including a hike through Buena Vista. It was so wonderful to be catching up with my Dad as well as being surrounded by this great group of friends. Our hike ended at another park (I forget now what it’s called) where we sat in the sunshine and ate ice cream. Pretty dreamy day. The show that night was no exception. Viracocha was definitely one of my favorite venues we discovered on this tour. Megan had been telling me about it for a long time and described it as her favorite place to play in SF, so I had high hopes, and it definitely lived up to them. The upstairs of Viracocha is a beautifully decorated antique store that specializes in vintage typewriters, and then you walk downstairs into this dimly-lit speakeasy lounge and venue area. The whole thing is tasteful and classy, and it sounded so good in there. Gwyneth and Monko played a delightful set and then Megan and her band followed suit. I have had the pleasure of hearing a lot of Megan’s new material in the form of rough mixes from the studio, but it was really exciting to get to hear these songs live with her band. I think my favorite of the night was “Just Enough Time”, especially when her and Brandon sing together. Our set was super fun and we got Megan and Gwyneth up there again to sing with us, as well as having my Dad with us again, which was pure bliss. One of my favorite moments was seeing Peter and Megan in the back of the room slow-dancing to “Me and the River”. We ended the night with a big 3-band rendition of Sweet Virginia, by the Rolling Stones, which was one of the Kickstarter cover-song rewards.
Monday, April 15th
Sad to say goodbye to San Fran and our big extended family of G&M and the Keely crew and my Papa, but we had to head on. Somehow we made it to LA without hitting crazy rush hour traffic, even with one stop at In & Out Burger, and got to Hotel Café early. It was a 7pm show, which was unfortunately on the very early side for many of my LA buddies and our audience was not many in number, but very dear friends and family. We had a great time performing and were happy to be playing there, and the peeps that came out were incredibly supportive and sweet to us. We had a fun hang with friends and family after the show and then made it back to our home-stay in Santa Monica, at the gorgeous home of my friend Brook who I grew up with, and his lady. We closed the night sitting in their back yard, listening to the ocean a few blocks away.
Tuesday, April 16th
The first leg heading back East. Hard to believe that we were already on the homeward stretch. And we knew that a week of very loooong drives lay ahead of us. But we started with a small chunk and, after a long walk on the Santa Monica beach, drove to Joshua Tree. Even though this drive technically is not very long, it seemed like it took forever at the snail’s pace we were moving through traffic. At least we stopped for some really delicious Mexican food on the way. This was also where we stopped for gas and I accidentally left the gas pump IN the car when I got back in and we heard a startlingly loud THUMP as we started to drive away and looked back to see the entire hose had dislodged and was dangling from our car. Haha, WHOOOPS! The gas station attendant came out and took it from us and clearly was quite unimpressed with this boneheaded move of mine, which she communicated wordlessly. Ever since that incident, I’ve been quite diligent about hanging the gas pump back up, don’t worry. Anyway, we got to Joshua Tree and scoped out a campsite with just enough time to set up Scotty’s mammoth tent and get a fire going before the sun went down. Being in Joshua Tree felt like being on another planet. The trees themselves look, as Doc pointed out, like something out of a Dr. Suess book. We got a great fire going, which was necessary because it cooled down drastically once the sun went down. Some friends of Jamie’s (and now all of ours!) were in town and came by to hang with us, and we had a marvelous night of chilling around the fire.
Wednesday, April 17th
We started the day with a delicious breakfast at Crossroads restaurant, legendary because our buddy Kai had worked there once upon a time, and then started making our way through Joshua Tree toward Tucson. The scenery had severely changed at this point from the lush mountains and water we had been looking at just a few days ago and now we were firmly in the desert. The drive through Joshua Tree was mesmerizing. We stopped once to take pics and frolic around the rocks (okay, I guess the boys didn’t really frolic). We were all excited and not sure what to expect regarding our show that evening—for all of us it was our first time playing at a bowling alley. We got to Golden Pin lanes and set up shop. The performance space was in a separate room off of the bowling alley and it had a little bit of a hotel conference room vibe. Luckily, it had a decent sound system and cool lighting options and even wireless mics, which was a fun and funny touch for the show (I took advantage of this feature during Sweet Afternoon where I walked into the audience and poured a beer for my friends while singing—a definite first for me). We got a game of bowling in before the show and met up with my friend Nathan, another great buddy from Fairfield who I hadn’t gotten to hang out with in ages. Nathan had been a big help in getting this gig set up, and he and his very sweet lady were so supportive of us, bringing their friends to the show and buying not just one, but two t-shirts. It means so much to have that kind of encouragement and support when you are out there going to cities where you know virtually no one. We had a really fun time and even got to do some more bowling after the show.
Thursday, April 18th
Today was a driving day. A BIG driving day. Our next destination was Odessa, Texas, which was about 2/3 of the way from Tucson to Austin. On a food note, we had started off this tour eating many meals of pizza, and it seemed that we were ending the tour with a Mexican-food theme. Thanks to Yelp we found a yummy Mexican place along the way, in middle-of-nowheresville, Texas. Not much to say about this day other than it was a long one and we were all very tired by the time we got to our hotel in Odessa. We still managed to have lots of laughs in the car though and it was fun even when we were exhausted and sick of being in that van.
Friday, April 19th
Luckily, five hours of driving flew by in comparison to the nine hours we had the day before, and soon we were in Austin. We got there early and had time to get dinner at this amazing Ramen noodle restaurant near the venue. I’ve only spent one weekend in Austin before this trip, and both times now that I’ve been there, I’ve really wanted to stick around and explore the city more. It feels vibrant and exciting, and seems to have a lot going on. Club DeVille is a really terrific venue and I look forward to playing there again sometime. There’s an outdoor seating area and stage that’s built in front of a cliff-face and inside it’s dark and vibey and feels like a good place to be seeing (or playing) music. Our sound guy Will was a hoot and made the show extra fun. He deemed Doc “the Dark Horse”, amongst other hilarious tidbits. We also had a really nice turn out at this show, and were psyched to be sharing the night with Ali Holder, from Austin. Her band was great and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again in Nashville sometime soon. We had some friends come out and also got to make some new friends, including Will.
Saturday, April 20th
For the last week of tour we were on about an every-other-day performing schedule. This ended up being good considering how worn out we were at this point from the long stretches of driving that were occupying our days. Today we headed from Austin to New Orleans—another long one. But it turned out to be very much worth it to have all of the following day in New Orleans. And we were the lucky recipients of tremendous generosity from a guardian angel friend of mine who surprised us and gifted us with a room for the night at The Ponchartrain Hotel. What a place! Was pretty grand to arrive at this luxurious hotel after a day spent in the van. The Ponchartrain has been around forever and has had all sorts of famous and historical figures stay there, including Tennessee Williams writing Streetcar Named Desire there. It’s also said to be haunted! Every time we got in the elevator, Papi would jokingly say hi to the ghosts and have a chat with them. We didn’t actually see any ghosts, but at least they knew they were welcome to hang out with us!
Sunday, April 21st
It was hard to believe that our last show of tour was already upon us. Today felt like a total celebration day, and what better city to be celebrating in than NOLA? Our dear friend Lise, who is the mom of one of Jamie’s best friends from college, took us under her wing and brought us out to an incredible brunch, a driving tour of New Orleans, and a happy hour beverage at Pal’s, super cool local bar with scrumptious cocktails. It was the prettiest day weather-wise that we had had in a while, and felt great to be there, enjoying this rich city. The day flew by and soon it was time for our show at Circle Bar, another terrific venue. We got to share the evening with Micah McKee and Little Maker, as well as a few other local songwriters. Micah has a regular Sunday-night gig at Circle Bar and it was a pleasure to be a part of it. We had lots of family and extended family members at this show, which made it even more special and sweet as the closing show of our tour.
Monday, April 22nd
Happy Birthday, Stophy! And homeward bound! Finally on the very last leg of our grand journey. We were all tired, happy, and ready to be home. I will admit, Jamie and I were both very spoiled to be able to be with our “significant other” on tour, and you can imagine that the rest of the crew was especially eager to get home and be reunited with their wife/girlfriend/boyfriend, as the case may be. Stophy’s lady was awaiting him to celebrate the big day, so we tried to keep the momentum going, aside from one lunch stop at a yummy Mediterranean restaurant in Jackson (again, thanks to Yelp!). To me, this one stands out as a particularly fun drive. I don’t recollect what we were talking about that was so hilarious, but I just remember long periods of laughter and general silliness on this drive. We made it to Memphis where Scotty was returned to the loving arms of his wife and to his happy doggies, and then made the rest of the trek to Nashville. It was probably about 9pm when we pulled in. And I suppose, in the sprit of having one big grand finale of humorous things happening, when the four of us got back to Jamie’s house, we were locked out. Not only did this mean that we couldn’t get in his house, it also meant that Doc couldn’t take Stophy home as planned, because her keys were in the house. Luckily, Doc and Stophy’s loved ones came to swoop them up and soon Jamie’s roommate came to our rescue and we were in.
Ahhhhhh. Sigh. It’s all been a wonderful whirlwind. Just the adventure I hoped it could be and, as happy as I am to be home and digesting the whole experience, I can’t wait to start planning the next Family Vacation. Grateful for every part of this tour. What a gift!